Athens Mayor Steve Patterson and five other Appalachian mayors were not given a say in the appointment of Hugh Sherman as Ohio University’s next president, despite asking the OU Board of Trustees to have a seat at the table in deliberations.
The group, including mayors of Chillicothe, Ironton, Lancaster, Saint Clairsville and Zanesville, all locations of OU’s regional and main campuses, sent a letter to the Board of Trustees in May asking to be involved in the search process for President Duane Nellis’ successor after an interim was appointed, arguing that weighty decisions made at the university have consequential spillover effects on their cities.
The Board of Trustees, according to Patterson, indicated days before Sherman’s appointment that they would cooperate with the mayors’ request.
But the Trustees abandoned the plan to appoint an interim and went full steam ahead in appointing Sherman as the institution’s 22nd president for a brief two-year term without giving the group of mayors a voice in the decision.
Patterson said he spoke Thursday, prior to Sherman's appointment, with Board of Trustees Chair Cary Cooper who said the mayors will be included in the search process for the university’s 23rd president, which is expected to begin in the fall.
“At this point I’m ok with that as long as that does happen to where we’re at the table … we still expect to be a part of the search for the next long-term president for Ohio University,” Patterson said.
Patterson, who said he was surprised the Trustees opted to give Sherman the title of president as opposed to interim president, spoke highly of the former College of Business dean, saying he is fit for the role.
University spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said in a statement that the Board of Trustees is "deeply committed to engaging the full University and the broader community in the search for our 23rd President."
Cooper reportedly told Patterson they wanted to appoint somebody who is “thoroughly acting as the president of the university,” the mayor said, whereas interim presidents tend to serve a more ceremonial role while the search for full-time leader is underway.